Thu Oct 10 5:09pm ET
By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Pro Football Writer
Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer watches from the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
In this Feb. 4, 2018, file photo, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor, right, catches a pass next to New England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 52 football game in Minneapolis. The Eagles return to Minnesota this week for their first game there since winning the Super Bowl almost two years ago. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) and Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) celebrate after a touchdown against the New York Giants during the third quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson follows the action at the NFL football team's practice facility in Philadelphia, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) When the Philadelphia Eagles arrive in Minnesota, their first visit since winning Super Bowl 52, there might be some subtle reminders at U.S. Bank Stadium of the scene that night when the franchise's first Lombardi Trophy was secured.
They'll have to look and think hard, though. The interior decoration will be different, downtown Minneapolis won't be decked out for the seminal event, and while the air might be chilly there won't be below-zero temperatures like that frosty week in early February 2018.
Two seasons later is like an eternity in the what-have-you-done-lately NFL, so don't expect the Eagles (3-2) to treat this game on Sunday against the Vikings (3-2) as a stop on some nostalgia tour of the Twin Cities area.
''It's a great place. Obviously, we had success the last time, but this is different. Crowd is going to be different. Environment is going to be different. It's a noon game,'' coach Doug Pederson said. ''We have to get ourselves ready to play a good football team, and obviously the crowd will be in their favor.''
The Eagles reached that Super Bowl, of course, by blowing out the Vikings in the NFC championship game in Philadelphia. Watching the Eagles celebrate on their home turf two weeks later was tough to take, but the Vikings were at least able to get any lingering bitterness out of their system last fall with a victory in Philadelphia.
''No real ill feelings. They won fair and square,'' wide receiver Stefon Diggs said. ''So that was more like a last year thing when we got to play them again. But this year is just like going to another game, trying to prepare the right way and just get a win.''
Here are some key angles to the game:
The Eagles have the NFL's top run defense since 2016 and are allowing a league-low 63 rushing yards per game this season, but the Vikings will present their greatest challenge on the ground yet. Dalvin Cook is second in the NFL with 542 rushing yards, averaging 5.9 yards per attempt, and Alexander Mattison has chipped in with 189 yards on an average of 5.6 yards per carry.
''It looks like they've clicked the speed of the film up a little bit. They're making big plays everywhere. It's not just Dalvin Cook,'' Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said, adding: ''We're a pretty strong run defense. They're a pretty strong run offense. It's going to be a great matchup.''
The Eagles were interested in Cook in the 2017 draft, but he went to the Vikings at No. 41 overall, two ahead of Philadelphia's spot in the second round.
''I really liked his explosiveness, not only with the ball in his hands, but he can catch the ball out of the backfield,'' Pederson said. ''There was a lot of explosive plays on his tape. I was really comfortable with him, and we were close to pulling the trigger on that one.''
The Eagles' pass rush busted out of a slump in a big way by recording 10 sacks against the New York Jets last week after only registering three in the first four games. Defensive end Brandon Graham had a career-best three sacks and cornerback Orlando Scandrick had two sacks plus two forced fumbles, one that he returned for a touchdown in his first game in Philadelphia.
''I'm just happy we all went out there and had one of those games we've been dreaming about as a defensive line,'' Graham said. ''We're coming together at the right time, especially after all of the emotional games we have played. We have to keep it going. We have a lot of people that were new. We need everybody.''
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has been sacked 11 times this year, is plenty familiar with the Eagles and their front seven from his time playing them twice per season with Washington.
''I have so much respect for their pass rush. Every time I've played them, you know what they can do and the effect they can have on a game,'' Cousins said. ''I think it was a big reason why so many of those guys have Super Bowl rings, because of the way they can rush the passer.''
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Diggs created a stir last week by missing practice, an absence that drew him a fine of more than $200,000, and later acknowledging his dissatisfaction with the state of the team in light of an ugly loss at Chicago during which Cousins and the passing game faltered. After the Vikings beat the New York Giants last week, though, the good vibes were back in the locker room, and Diggs said he never wanted out.
''I wasn't unhappy or uncomfortable with my role. I said I wanted to win. That's where my frustrations were,'' Diggs said.
With 11 of the 16 teams in the NFC toting two or fewer losses, the competition for six spots in the playoffs over the final two-thirds of the season has set up to be as fierce as ever. As far as mid-October games go, this one will carry a lot of weight for both the Eagles and the Vikings, both in their respective division standings and for wild-card capital that could be useful in a crowded race down the stretch.
Since the 12-team postseason format was first used by the NFL in 1990, a total of 134 of 213 teams (62.9 percent) to win four of their first six games have gone on to make the playoffs. The number of postseason qualifiers dropped to 78 of 216 teams (36.1 percent) that have won three of their first six games.
''They're trying to catch momentum just as we are, coming off a win, so it's going to be a good one,'' Diggs said.
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (back) missed another practice on Wednesday, but he wants to play again this season when he's cleared by doctors. However, Detroit is currently 3-6-1 and has very little chance of making the playoffs, so it's not like the Lions will rush their starting quarterback back. Stafford is expected to miss his third straight game after his streak of 136 straight starts was broken two weeks ago. He doesn't when it'll be, he just wants to make it back this season. Stafford was second in the NFL at the time of his injury with 19 touchdowns, and he was leading the NFL in 20-plus yard completions (41). He remains week-to-week, and fantasy owners must come to grips with the fact that he might not help them again in 2019. Jeff Driskel will remain the starter while Stafford is out.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (toe) was limited in practice on Wednesday. Adams will be fine to play on Sunday night against the 49ers. The 26-year-old has seen a healthy 21 targets in his two games since returning from turf toe, and he went for 118 yards before the Week 11 bye against Carolina. Adams is a must-start as quarterback Aaron Rodgers' top target, but the Niners have been very good at limiting opposing wideouts in 2019. Consider him more of a low-end WR1, and he'll be looking for his first touchdown of the season this weekend.
Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (foot, wrist) was limited in practice on Wednesday. Barring a setback in practice later this week, Lindsay will be good to go for Week 12 against the Bills. The second-year back has mostly been a disappointment in 2019 while sharing backfield work with Royce Freeman in an offense that doesn't score many points, but Denver proved last week that they plan on giving more work to Lindsay to close out the season. The 25-year-old had his most carries (16) since Sept. 22 against the Packers. He's the better fantasy back in Denver's backfield and will have low-end RB2 appeal this weekend.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle had been one of the most consistent players on the team before he disappeared in Week 11 with no targets or catches. In Week 12, you can't count on him to produce a lot, and his ceiling was never all that high anyway. He only has three touchdowns on the year, and he's only gone over 50 yards in a game one time this season. Good fantasy football tight ends are hard to find, especially when two or three of them are on byes this week, but you can still find a better option than Doyle.
Indianapolis Colts running back Nyheim Hines saw his stock shoot up earlier this week when starting running back Marlon Mack (hand) was announced as out for Thursday's game with the Houston Texans. In PPR formats, Hines can easily get you 10 to 12 points with his ability to catch passes out of the backfield. The Texans have given up more receptions to running backs than any other team in the NFL this season. Hines still doesn't present much value in standard leagues, but he gives you a decent flex option if you're short-handed this week in PPR leagues.
Indianapolis Colts running back Jordan Wilkins has essentially been a non-factor all season, but with starter Marlon Mack (hand) out for Week 12, he presents some deeper league sleeper potential. Running back Jonathan Williams was the hot hand in Week 11, but Wilkins is more experienced with the team. Head coach Frank Reich could opt to split carries and ride whatever running back is rolling. Wilkins could be that, as he boasts a career yard-per-carry average of 5.8. Unless you're desperate, though, don't count on him for anything consistent.
Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Williams was thrust into a major role after starter Marlon Mack (hand) left the game in Week 11. In Week 12, he'll receive a fair bit of work against the Houston Texans, but it's tough to tell how much. The Colts were up comfortably for much of their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and he was the hot hand on the afternoon. Against the Texans, the Colts could go for more of a committee approach, which could lower Williams' ceiling. If he gets rolling like he did last week, he's a great play. Otherwise, he could come out with a dud. He shouldn't be relied upon unless absolutely necessary, especially since he could play second fiddle to Jordan Wilkins on early downs.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (calf) is questionable heading into the team's Week 12 matchup with the Houston Texans, but if he plays, you almost have to start him. He's been an elite player when he's been on the field this season, and he's consistently torn up the Texans in the past. He's about two weeks removed from his injury, and it's still questionable if he'll be able to suit up. With Hilton's talent and the Texans' inability to stop opposing pass-catchers, he's startable this week if he's active.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Zach Pascal has steadily been fading over the last month of the season. In Week 12, he has some upside against the Houston Texans, who he went for six catches, 106 yards and two touchdowns against earlier this season, but he's been too inconsistent to rely upon every week. There are a number of good offenses with good wide receivers that are on byes this week that could force you into playing Pascal, and he has the ability to score a fair bit of points. However, his inconsistency should have you looking elsewhere. With T.Y. Hilton (calf) potentially returning as the team's No. 1 receiver, it'll give you even more reason to fade Pascal in this run-first offense.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron remains firmly in the TE2 category thanks to his athleticism and abilities in the red zone. In Week 12 against the Houston Texans, he is again a TE2 with upside thanks to a soft defense. You likely drafted Ebron to be your top tight end, and he hasn't been that this season with just three touchdowns through 10 games. This could be the week he gets back into the end zone, but there are still a few players with better matchups and outlooks than him.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett has a matchup with the Houston Texans in Week 12, and he has the potential to have a big week. The Texans have the offense to put up a lot of points, but their defense has been suspect due to injuries and player moves. The Colts will be without running back Marlon Mack (hand), which will put more work on Brissett's shoulders. The Colts Defense has given up points at times this year, and they gave up 23 in the first matchup of these teams. Brissett and the team put up 30 in that matchup, and if wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (calf) is able to play, his ceiling shoots way up.
Indianapolis Colts RB Jonathan Williams might be counted upon to start the Week 12 game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on Thursday, Nov. 21 with RB Marlon Mack (hand) out. If Williams gets the start, it will be in the building where he had his last starting assignment in the 2014 Texas Bowl for the University of Arkansas.
Fantasy Spin: Williams went for over 100 yards last week once Mack went down, and Jordan Wilkins is coming off an ankle injury, so it's likely a good bet Williams gets first crack at the lion's share of the work. By the way, he had 105 yards in that Texas Bowl win over the Texas Longhorns, so fantasy owners hope lightning strikes twice at NRG in Week 12.
Indianapolis Colts QB Jacoby Brissett enters the Week 12 game Thursday, Nov. 21 against the Houston Texans with a 4-0 career record with seven touchdowns, no interceptions and a 107.2 passer rating, going 3-0 with the Colts and 1-0 as a member of the New England Patriots.
Fantasy Spin: Brissett will have the good fortune of not having to face J.J. Watt, since he is out for the remainder of the season, too. He's not a bad low-end QB1 in fantasy leagues of 12 or more teams, and it sounds like he'll have T.Y. Hilton back, too.
Indianapolis Colts WR Devin Funchess (collarbone) has not yet been activated from the Reserve/Injured list, so it is extremely unlikely he plays in Week 12 against the Houston Texans.
Fantasy Spin: Funchess hasn't shed his non-contact jersey, and the team is unlikely to rush him and risk aggravating his injury. Fantasy owners will want to see him officially return and knock off the rust, making it through a full game without any setbacks. Unfortunately for most owners, time is running out for that to happen in the fantasy regular season.
Indianapolis Colts RB Nyheim Hines is still expected to see his normal role in the passing game in Week 12 against the Houston Texans, and not an increase in work despite the loss of RB Marlon Mack (hand).
Fantasy Spin: Hines will see his regular work on passing downs, but it appears Jonathan Williams and/or Jordan Wilkins will be counted upon as the workhorse back for carries.
San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert (knee) was limited during practice Wednesday, Nov. 20.
Fantasy Spin: Mostert has been limited during practice over the last few weeks but has not missed a game. He has been held to 35 yards or less in each of the last three games and probably can be avoided in most leagues.
San Francisco 49ers DE Dee Ford (hamstring, quadriceps), PK Robbie Gould (quadriceps) and OT Joe Staley (finger) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Nov. 20. DT D.J. Jones (groin) was limited during practice, while LB Azeez Al-Shaair (concussion) fully participated in practice.
San Francisco 49ers WR Emmanuel Sanders (ribs) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Nov. 20.
Fantasy Spin: Sanders did not practice last week but was able to play in Week 11, so he may not do much during practice this week. He should be a starting option in all leagues if he is active for the game.
San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle (ankle, knee) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Nov. 20.
Fantasy Spin: Kittle has missed the last few games because of the injuries and probably will miss another game if he does not practice. Fantasy players should check on his status later in the week but will need other options available.
The Oakland Raiders Defense is coming off back-to-back stellar weeks and is in a superb spot to keep the trend going in Week 12. Led by the reigning Defensive Player of the Week Maxx Crosby, they've piled up 10 sacks and five turnovers in their last two games, helping them earn double-digit fantasy point totals in each contest. Their Jets opponent this weekend is allowing the second-most fantasy points to the D/ST position, and the third-most sacks in the league (41). Managers looking for a streaming option this week should ride the Raiders defense with confidence.